'We will get through this': Hundreds honour Humboldt Broncos at vigil on home ice

The largest assembly of people ever in Elgar Petersen Arena gathered Sunday to remember those who died in the tragic collision.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Don Cherry attended the vigil

A public vigil is taking place in Humboldt, Saskatchewan to mourn victims of a bus crash Friday that took 15 lives. 1:21:50

Hundreds of people gathered in Humboldt, Sask., Sunday night to mourn those killed and injured in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

The vigil, organized by the Saskatchewan government and local faith leaders, began early in the evening from the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Broncos junior league hockey team.

Fifteen people died from the Friday collision between a bus carrying the Broncos and a semi-trailer. Another fourteen were injured.

"I don't want to be here. But it's good that we are," team pastor Sean Brandow said in the night's most emotional speech.

Brandow said he drove the same route to Friday night's scheduled game against the Nipawin Hawks and came across the wreckage of the crash, later coming "to sit and hold the hand of a lifeless body."

Humboldt Broncos team chaplain Sean Brandow addresses the vigil honouring those killed and injured in a team bus crash. 3:45

Brandow spoke with the photos of the dead Broncos players before him, saying it reminded him of sitting behind the team bench during games.

"I stared at the back of your players' heads just like I'm doing right now. I sit there because I want to see the names on their jerseys."

He concluded, "Can we heal? Yes. Will the scars be there? Yes."

"We will get through this," Humboldt Mayor Rob Muench said to the packed arena dotted with people wearing the green-and-yellow Broncos jersey, including Muench himself.

A man is comforted as he looks at photographs prior to a vigil on Sunday at the Elgar Petersen Arena, home of the Humboldt Broncos, to honour the victims of a fatal bus accident. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"To use a hockey analogy, we'll stickhandle our way through this and hopefully we won't have to dump it in the corner and we'll get to the net," said Muench.

"It's now 7:32 p.m.," said emcee and Rev. Matteo Carboni. "The Humboldt Broncos game [on Friday] would have started at 7:30."

He then led the crowd into a minute of silence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe were at the rink, but did not make public remarks. The ceremony included hymns, reading from scripture and music.

Hundreds of people lined up to enter the arena before doors opened to the public at 6 p.m. CST.

Coach's Corner co-host Don Cherry was also there. 

The crowd listens and cries during a performance of "Amazing Grace." (CBC)

An overflow room for the event had already filled up by 6:30 p.m. CST.

'We're with you, we're behind you'

Earlier in the day, Muench said his phone had been flooded with calls and texts from complete strangers offering the community support in the wake of the crash.

"Just a number and an area code from I don't even know where saying, 'We're with you, we're behind you, here's a poem I wrote, here's a song."

Muench's phone then rang several times.

People also gathered at Saskatoon's city hall and at the arena in Prince Albert, Sask., to honour the Broncos Sunday night.

A separate vigil was held at Saskatoon city hall Sunday night. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

with files from Charles Hamilton and Dan Zakreski